Saturday 4 June 2011

The Vigil of Pentecost

The Vigil of Pentecost will be celebrated in the Church of S. Magnus on Saturday 11th June at 6.30pm. This vigil, supressed in the devastating 1955 Holy Week reforms, is now almost never celebrated, and I am informed that if we manage to find Deacon and Subdeacon for our celebration at S. Magnus, it will likely be the first such celebration in this country since the vigil was supressed.

Gregory DiPippo's excellent Compendium of the Holy Week reforms, published on the New Liturgical Movement blog, includes a description of this Vigil, to which I can add little.

Synopsis of the Pre-Pius XII Ritual

Already in very ancient times, the sacrament of baptism was celebrated on the feast of Pentecost as on Easter; this is said explicitly by Pope Saint Siricius (384-399) in a letter to bishop Himerius of Tarragon. (Epist. ad Himerium cap. 2 : Patrologia Latina vol. XIII, col. 1131B-1148A) Pope Saint Leo I (440-461) reasserts that this was the practice of the Church in a letter to the bishops of Sicily, exhorting them to follow the example of the Apostle Peter, who baptized three thousand persons on Pentecost day. (Epist. XVI ad universos episcopos per Siciliam constitutos : P.L. LIV col. 695B-704A) This custom is expressed in the liturgy of the vigil of Pentecost, which resembles in many respects the rite of Holy Saturday. This resemblance is found in the Missal of St. Pius V, as in all of the missals that came before it, and in the medieval usages of the great cathedrals and religious orders.

The rite begins in the penitential color, violet. There is no blessing of a Paschal fire, nor of a Paschal candle, nor the Exsultet; therefore, the vigil begins with six prophecies, repeated from the vigil of Easter, each of which is followed by a prayer. (The three tracts from Easter night are also repeated in their respective places). The six prayers are different from those of the Easter vigil, but express in many respects the same ideas. After the sixth prophecy, the blessing of the baptismal font is repeated, changing only the prayer at the beginning, following which the Litany is sung. During the Litany, the major ministers return to the sacristy and change to red vestments for the Mass.

Other rites of the Easter vigil are repeated at this vigil Mass; there is no Introit, and the bells are rung at the Gloria in excelsis. (The Introit Cum sanctificatus fuero was later assigned for private Masses only.) The collect of the Mass refers to the baptismal character of this celebration even more clearly than that of the Easter vigil Mass. After the Alleluja of the Mass is sung the same Tract which is sung on Easter night. At the Gospel, the acolytes do not carry candles. Just as on Easter night the Resurrection is watched for, but not anticipated, so also with this same gesture, the Church watches for the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire, as Christ told His disciples to do, but does not anticipate it. A further reference to the baptisms done in the first part of the rite is found in the Canon of the Mass, in which the proper Hanc igitur of Easter is said. This text speaks explicitly of those whom the Lord “(has) deigned to regenerate of water and the Holy Spirit, granting to them remission of their sins. ” It is said in this Mass, and though the entire octave of Pentecost, as it is also said at the Mass of the Easter vigil, and throughout the octave.

Synopsis of the Pius XII Reforms

The 1955 reform almost completely removes this ancient tradition of the Roman Rite, suppressing the Prophecies, the blessing of the font, and the Litany. The Mass begins with the Introit which was formerly said only in private Masses. The rubrics about ringing the bells during the Gloria and not carrying candles at the Gospel are also suppressed. The text of the Mass itself is not changed; the same collect and the same Easter Hanc igitur are still said, although the baptismal rituals to which they refer are suppressed.
Copyright Gregory DiPippo 2009

So I'd urge you come to S. Magnus to take part in this most ancient and excellent preparation for the Great Feast of Pentecost. I don't know that another Church in London will be celebrating the vigil and although we hope to repeat it next year, God willing, this could be your one chance to attend this service. See you there!

1 comment:

  1. What splendid news!

    I believe that there has not been a solemn celebration of the Vigil of Pentecost (with deacon and subdeacon) in this Realm for fifty-five years. (It is just possible that one had been arranged by the Latin Mass Society in its very early years, in the late 1960s, but I am unaware of one).

    Fr. Peter Morgan re-introduced the celebration of the Pentecost Vigil in the 1970s at Highclere Village Hall but that was celebrated as a Missa Cantata. His successor continued that praxis and although the SSPX used folded chasubles for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday for several Holy Weeks they were not used for the Pentecost Vigil, these being served as sung Masses only.

    Such a superb and important celebration, its suppression was indeed quite shameful. Back in the 1990s I saw my first Pentecost Vigil when the late, recently departed, Arthur Crumly organised one under the auspices of the Latin Mass Society at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane. Arthur had tried to get a deacon and subdeacon for the event (having himself re-introduced folded chasubles) but was unsuccessful. However, the Missa Cantata Vigil was very moving indeed. I recall helping the celebrant, a now octogenarian priest, unvest after the Mass: he was shaking and there were tears flowing from his eyes. I asked him what was wrong and he replied: "It has brought it all back to me. What we do for Holy Week [1962] is not the real Holy Week at all - Holy Saturday was like this only it had twelve prophecies." So one can see exactly why the Pacelli-Bugnini Commission suppressed the Pentecost Vigil from 1952 where the new, experimental, 'Easter Vigil' was celebrated and, universally, from 1956 as it would have reminded people of the authentic form.

    Well done St. Magnus! Hopefully, liturgically-minded folk will flock to the celebration